LAHORE - The World Health Organization will upgrade laboratory of Children’s Hospital for timely confirmation of diseases.

Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Punjab sought support of WHO for early diagnosis of diseases to enable doctors to start timely treatment.

Sending samples and receiving reports from National Institute of Health Islamabad was a weeklong exercise, delaying start of proper treatment of diseases. Moreover, delay in diagnosis was also causing confusion and even confrontation among experts like in the cases of Diphtheria.

Experts from EPI contradicted claims of doctors from Children’s Hospital regarding cases of Diphtheria, asserting that confirmation could be made only after analysis of samples from recognised lab like NIH Islamabad. Increasing differences caused donor agencies to intervene and arrange a meeting of experts from EPI and Pakistan Paediatrics Association (PPA).

Director EPI Punjab Dr Munir Ahmed, Chairman National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) Dr Tariq Iqbal Bhutta, President PPA Prof Tahir Masood, Dr Asif from PPA Punjab along with professors of Paediatrics from Children’s Hospital, Services Hospital and experts from UNICEF and WHO attended the meeting held yesterday.

President PPA said that improving routine immunization was extremely important for reducing disease burden on hospitals. He said Pakistan’s overall routine immunization’s figures were in desperate need of improvement when compared with neighbouring countries, although Punjab had made good progress in the last one year. He was of the view that vaccine preventable diseases were on the rise due to deficiencies in routine immunization.

PPA nominated Dr Hamid Haroon its representative in EPI Steering Committee for improving coordination.

The PPA also identified disease surveillance as an area that needed improvement to which the EPI and the PPA agreed to develop a mechanism for quick and efficient reporting.

The PPA also shared observations on accuracy of reported coverage to which EPI Director shared the progress made with the introduction of android-based application for vaccinators in the last one year. Dr Munir said that the EPI program was in process of collecting data on its own to ascertain the number of children in each district and make statistical projections. He said the EPI will also introduce a ‘face matcher’ in E-vaccs digital card by April 2016 for minimizing chances of fake reporting.

The PPA and EPI also discussed at length the measures and options on changes in EPI schedule, introduction of booster doses, extra doses of existing vaccines and best global practices in the wake of recent reporting of diphtheria cases.

Huma Khawar, Communication Consultant at Gavi, said that it was important to raise awareness on nine vaccine preventable diseases to ensure high immunization coverage in the province and the PPA’s role was pivotal. She explained that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership committed to saving children’s lives and protecting people’s health by increasing access to immunisation in poor countries.